New research has demonstrated a strong connection between hearing loss and mental health.
And there’s something else that both of these disorders have in common – patients and health professionals frequently fail to recognize and address them. Recognizing there is a relationship could potentially enhance mental health for millions of individuals and provide hope as they seek solutions.
We understand that hearing loss is widespread, but only a handful of studies have dealt with its impact on mental health.
Research has revealed that over 11 percent of people with measurable hearing loss also had signs of clinical depression. This is significant because only 5 percent of the general population report being depressed. Depression was analyzed by the frequency and severity of the symptoms and a basic questionnaire based on self-reporting of hearing loss was used. People who were between 18 and 69 had the highest instance of depression. Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at NICDC and the author of this study, discovered “a significant link between profound depression and hearing loss”.
Untreated Hearing Loss Doubles Your Risk of Depression
Another study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, revealed that people with age-related hearing loss (a very common chronic condition in the elderly) experienced more signs of depression and the more severe the hearing loss – the higher the chance of depression. Participants were evaluated for depression after taking an audiometric hearing exam. Once again, researchers found that individuals with even a little bit of hearing loss were nearly twice as likely to experience depression. In addition, many older than 70 who have slight hearing loss (which has also been known to raise the chance of cognitive impairment and dementia) are not diagnosed or treated. Obviously, there’s a connection between the two even though a direct cause and effect relationship hasn’t yet been demonstrated.
Hearing is essential to being active and communicating effectively. Embarrassment, anxiety, and potential loss of self-esteem can be the consequence of the professional and social blunders that come with hearing loss. Gradual withdrawal can be the result if these feelings are left unaddressed. People withdraw from friends and family and also from physical activity. Over time, this can result in solitude, loneliness – and depression.
Hearing is About More Than Just Ears
Hearing loss and its link to depression underscores that hearing loss isn’t only about the ears. Your brain, your quality of life, healthy aging, and overall health are all impacted by your hearing. This indicates that within your overall healthcare, your hearing professional plays an important part. Confusion, aggravation, and exhaustion are frequently an issue for people who have hearing loss.
The good news: Finding professional care and testing at the earliest sign of a hearing issue helps counter this problem. Studies demonstrate that treating hearing loss early greatly diminishes their risk. Routine hearing exams need to be encouraged by physicians. After all, hearing loss is not the only thing a hearing test can detect. And with people who may be dealing with hearing loss, caregivers need to look for signs of depression. Common symptoms include difficulty concentrating, fatigue, general loss of interest, unhappiness, and loss of appetite.
Never dismiss your symptoms. Call us to schedule an appointment if you believe you might have hearing loss.